Erin Zammett Ruddy - Author. Writer. Blogger. Survivor.
  • Backyard-to-Table: Photos and Recipes from My Beloved Veggie Garden

    March 7th, 2013
    Kale chips! (so easy--just toss with a little olive oil and Kosher salt and pop in a 350 oven for a few minutes)

    Kale chips! (Just toss with a little olive oil and Kosher salt and pop in a 350-degree oven for five to 10 minutes.)


    Despite the weather in the northeast (I’m currently watching the snow fall outside my window) spring is definitely in the air. Or at least it should be. Or will be. Soon, one would think. And that means it’s almost time to resurrect our beloved vegetable garden. Those of you who follow me on facebook know I’m a little obsessed with my homegrown veggies. I think it’s because I’m still in awe of how easy and fun and downright amazing it is to plant some seeds and see real, delicious food grow from them (embarrassing confession: I get equally wide-eyed and impressed about cross-country air travel when it all goes well—isn’t it amazing, we were just on the east coast and now we’re on the west coast?!). Anyway, I think it’s pretty cool to have food in my backyard, food I don’t have to pay for (a box of organic greens is $5 in my market and I go through several a week when my garden isn’t up and running). And I don’t have to worry about whether the labels are telling me the truth. I know exactly where this food came from and I know what’s gone into it—water and sunshine and, yes, maybe some caterpillar poop, but we can wash that off.

    My friend, Elizabeth, started her own business installing raised-bed kitchen gardens and teaching people how to grow, care for and harvest organic veggies. I was one of her first clients—a badge of honor I wear proudly—and we are now entering our third year (follow Earl’s Kitchen Gardens on facebook for tons of great info and how-tos). I have officially drank the Kool-aid (or the beet juice I should say, though I have actually never had beet juice) and I’m not ashamed to say it. Other than the pure joy of plucking a vegetable from the garden and seeing it on my table that night, there is the parenting plus as well. My kids are as pumped about the garden as I am. When Elizabeth stops by occasionally to check on things, the kids act like Santa himself has made an appearance. They help plant and water and harvest and clean the veggies and, the best part, they eat them, too. We’ve grown tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, kale, green beans, yellow beans, burgundy beans, peas, scallions, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, carrots, arugula and every other kind of lettuce you can imagine. Plus herbs of all varieties. Alex eats all of it and Nora is all in except for lettuce, but she’ll come around. They say kids are more likely to eat vegetables if they’re part of the growing process and preparation and I can say that’s 100 percent true in my house.

    Naturally, I think the best part is the eating. I love to cook and since this stuff is so fresh and flavorful it doesn’t need much. But we’ve done some really fun things with our backyard bounty over the past two years and I wanted to share the highlights with you today. Hopefully it will get you pumped for spring and inspire you to grow something. Even a pot of fresh herbs in your windowsill can make you feel like a rockstar (being able to grab a few sprigs of cilantro for your guac is way better than having to buy a big bundle from the market that winds up getting wasted). OK, here is my little photo collage (bear with me, I’m new to all of this!) of super-local, backyard-to-table eating. Enjoy! If you want more detail on any of these dishes, let me know and if you have any great recipes to share, please do!


    Gazpacho! Made with our tomatoes, peppers, cukes and served with a dollop of homemade tzatziki (made with more cukes, which grow like weeds).


    We grow boatloads of basil, which is awesome because pesto is probably my favorite pasta sauce ever. It’s also good as a dip (mixed into cream cheese, served with carrots!).


    Zucchini fritters! So easy, so delish, such a crowd pleaser. I usually serve these with a little sour cream/feta/black pepper mixture. Mouth watering!


    One of our beauties. The flavor on these suckers is insane.


    We grow green beans and burgundy beans and yellow beans. They are amazing just sauteed in a little olive oil with Kosher salt and pepper. Or with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds for an Asian feel. Or raw!


    Whole wheat pizza with zucchini, feta, lemon zest and dollops of pesto over half (recipe modified from Dinner: A Love Story)


    Orzo tossed with pesto, toasted pine nuts, fresh peas, shaved parmesan. A perfect summer BBQ side dish.


    Fried zucchini blossoms with a side salad made entirely from our garden (except the feta, we’re not that cool!). Edible flowers are about the coolest party trick around for kids. And they devoured them.


    Pickles! So easy, so delish and Alex is obsessed.

    Pickles! So easy, so delish and Alex is obsessed. We made these by boiling water, vinegar and sugar then adding garlic, mustard seed and fresh dill to the sliced cukes.

    BLTs with our giant heirlooms and our Boston lettuce. Mouth-watering!

    BLTs with our giant heirlooms and our Boston lettuce. Mouth-watering!


    All of this came out of our garden--and it all went in my kid's mouth. Score!

    All of this came out of our garden–and it all went in my kid’s mouth. The best part: I didn’t feel guilty giving him a frozen Amy’s pizza on the side. Veggies are the antidote to summer mom guilt.


    We get tons of zucchini. They are so versatile and so delish—and they make great baseball bats.

    Thinly sliced and grilled zucchini with pignoli nuts, parmesan, mint and a lemon vinaigrette.

    Thinly sliced and grilled zucchini with toasted pine nuts, parmesan, mint (also from the garden!) and a lemon vinaigrette. My all-time fave.

    A vegetable you can bake into a sweet bread? Bonus! (zucchini bread with orange zest, walnuts, chocolate chips and more)

    A vegetable you can bake into a bread? Bonus! (Zucchini bread with orange zest, walnuts, chocolate chips—it’s a Paula Deen recipe so it ain’t light but it rocks.) I made a bunch this summer and froze one that we ate during Hurricane Sandy with some whipped cream cheese spread on top. Gluttonous!


    Nora and her cucumber. One of our favorite ways to eat these is just sliced thin with a little red wine vinegar and Kosher salt.


    This never gets old! And I can’t wait to get started again. As soon as the snow stops falling.


    White bean dip with arugula. I make this ALL THE TIME, just ask my book club. Super easy and the kids love it. (Also goes great with a glass of wine, just ask my book club!) 1 can of cannelini beans, a few handfuls of arugula, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Kosher salt. In the food processor and voila! I got the recipe while working on Glamour’s cookbook and have made it a bajillion times since. Also tastes great with roasted eggplant instead of arugula.


    Peas, please! (Nora also loves frozen peas—while they’re still frozen). Oh, and full disclosure: While my kids do love and eat a lot of vegetables, they also eat a lot of cookies and other crap (I try to control it but the stuff comes from everywhere). Just wanted to make that clear!


    Roasted beets and feta on top of sauteed beet greens with mushroom and shallot—not the best photo but this was one of my favorite dishes.

    Roasted beets and feta on top of sauteed beet greens with mushroom and shallot—not the best photo but this was one of my favorite dishes.


5 responses to “Backyard-to-Table: Photos and Recipes from My Beloved Veggie Garden” RSS icon

  • I am not a veggie person but all those dishes (minus the peas) look delish!

  • amy schnitzer

    hey there Erin
    Congrats on your new site!!! its great!!!
    I have always seen your posts on FB about your garden and really envious because its something I have been wanting to do for Looooong time but never had the time to do it
    Thanks for the info on Earls Kitchen Gardens I may call her up and have her get my backyard a veggie growing mecca!!!
    Thanks and good luck
    Say hi to Alex for us!! Zach misses him!!

  • do you have some of these recipes somewhere?? i WANT to make pesto just haven’t yet & some of these look so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • We live a little farther north then you do and have shorter growing season but I am so jealous! I grew up with my parents having an awesome garden and it brings back some of my fondest memories from childhood. I hope to get my kids really into it also. I love fresh veggies!

  • Love all of your pics and I love me some fresh veggies! YUM!

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